Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Breathing Through Discomfort

There's a point during almost every yoga class I take where I've reached my physical (or mental) limit in a pose and all I want to do is get out of it. I mentally beg the teacher to prompt us into another position. I fidget. I grimace. I sweat. Sometimes I even come out of the pose altogether, tired of struggling. Then I spend the rest of the class, or at least the next few minutes, silently berating myself for my inability to sustain the pose. It seems like a never-ending battle. I want to grow, to build mental and physical strength, and yet I don't want to feel the discomfort associated with all that change.

It's not just in my yoga practice that I experience this conflict either. I'm starting to recognize a similar resistance in my life at large. I'm especially seeing it lately where my writing is concerned. I want to write and publish my writing. I put time and effort into formulating ideas, putting them on paper, molding them into moving stories, and editing them over and over again. But then the resistance comes. The story might not be good enough yet. It might be too personal, might reveal too much of myself. It might--no, it will--be rejected. I don't want to feel the discomfort that comes along with all that. Instead, I leave the unfinished or unsubmitted pieces in a folder on my laptop. Or I pull them out and rework them, yet again. I do everything but send them out into the world. I just haven't been able to figure out how to move beyond that fear.

The answer came to me on the mat, as they so often do these days--but that's another post in itself. I was folded into Pigeon and my right hip flexor was stretch its limit. There wasn't any pain, just a nagging discomfort that my mind wanted to avoid. I started wishing we could move back into Downward Facing Dog. I rocked my hips side to side looking for a way out of the tension. I shifted a little more to the left and the discomfort disappeared, but so did the benefits, the pleasure, of the stretch. So I moved back into the pose, where the discomfort was still waiting.

At just that moment, the teacher spoke up. "Remember to breathe. If you feel tension, try sending your breath into that area of your body." I followed her lead, inhaling and exhaling slowly, deeply. The resistance waned. My mind relaxed as I focused on the air moving in and out of my lungs, and my body responded by relaxing a little, too. I even moved a teeny-tiny bit deeper into the position, as my hip flexor released ever-so-slightly.

Understanding flickered in my mind. The discomfort won't last forever. In fact, if I take the time to breath, to experience the discomfort and allow it to pass, I might just find that I'm able to move more fully into an experience--whether it's on the mat, in my writing, or in my life.

The next time fear, discomfort or tension arises in my life, I promise myself that I will breathe into the discomfort and wait for it to pass, because it always does. Then, when the discomfort subsides, I will move forward into the things that are waiting for me on the other side.

(Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

This piece was cross-posted at bookieboo.com, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).


Angela Hood-Ross said...

I love this blog. Much motivation was received. Thank you.

Simply Sara said...

You're a great writer. This post was from the heart and was good advice or wisdom to hear. thanks and keep yogaing and writing.

Unknown said...

I felt like this in my yoga class yesterday. I love how you brought that into how our lives are. Love this, Ami!

Ami said...

Savannah Rose - Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Glad my post was motivating!

Sara - Thank you for the kind words.

Hyssop - Glad my experience connected with you!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas (if you're celebrating) and a Happy New Year!

Unknown said...

Wonderful analogy/metaphor, Ami. I loved this. I feel the same fears as you do, and am trying to stretch myself in a similar fashion.

Happy Holidays!

Erin said...

Thank you for this. I often forget to breathe and get through the most difficult moments of my life, and instead flee from them. This is a wonderful reminder that those same experiences are what make me stronger, and wiser, and ultimately, a better version of me.

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